Mohali cricket stadium in India
Mohali cricket stadium in India

Cricket-crazy India and Pakistan head into a World Cup semifinal Wednesday that will decide which team will play Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai Saturday.

Officials estimate that more than a billion people will follow the epic battle in the northern Indian city of Mohali between the teams of the two nuclear-armed rival nations.

Among them will be Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, who accepted an invitation to attend what has been dubbed the "mother of all matches."

Listen to a related report by VOA's Ira Mellman

Security is tight in Mohali and surrounding areas in Punjab state, with local authorities saying they were leaving nothing to chance.

The match is taking place in the wake of two days of peace talks between Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Pakistan's Interior Secretary Chaudhary Qamar Zaman in New Delhi.  It was the first formal dialogue since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks during which Pakistan-based militants killed 166 people.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Islamabad agreed "in principle" to allow a team from India to investigate the attacks, while New Delhi said a Pakistani delegation would travel to India to probe the attacks.  The two sides also agreed to establish a hotline to share real-time information on terrorist threats.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their 1947 independence from Britain.

So-called "cricket diplomacy" has been used as a platform to ease India-Pakistan tension in the past.  In 1987 and 2005, Pakistani leaders traveled to India to watch cricket matches.

Tickets for the semifinal match have been sold out for days and most businesses and offices in both countries are expected to be closed.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.